Mrs. Fox: Excuse me? Am I being flirted with by a psychotic rat?
Oh Wes Anderson. I feel like you really have to be a fan of his to like any of his movies: The Royal Tennanbaums, Darjeeling Limited, the Life Aquatic, and this (I’m sure I missed a few in there…). He is a very gifted film maker, but I feel it takes a very special person to truly understand what he’s about. Hint: I’m not that person.
I’ve seen a few of his stuff. Of most of his movies, I probably like the Royal Tenanbaums the best. He paints these strange pictures of melancholy families or love or slices of life. Fantastic Mr. Fox is no exception.
This movie is based on a Roald Dahl book of the same name, and to be honest, that’s why I was interested in seeing it. As a kid I was a big Dahl fan, and seeing a stop motion movie based on one of his books sounded like fun. Besides, it wasn’t Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (seriously, let’s get some new Roald Dahl movies… like the BFG or Boy). And the movie is…. Ok. Again, I think the reason I’m not a bigger fan is the Wes Anderson factor.
The movie does, for the most part, follow the plot of the book, although artistic liscences are taken and more emphasis is given on the relationships Mr. Fox has with his wife and his son. It’s about a family of anthropomorphic foxes that live in a tree on a hill. Mr. Fox is a burglar and acquires his food and (according to him) his purpose in life by stealing from 3 farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. They get upset at him for stealing their food that they go to whatever extremes necessary to get rid of the fox, including using explosives, tractors, and guns to destroy his home and force him underground.
It doesn’t sound like much and honestly? It’s not. That’s pretty much the story. The foxes spend a good chunk of the book trying to avoid the farmers and end up with the entirety of the woodland creatures living in the sewers because they are afraid to go to the surface. Oh, and Mr. Fox goes on a rampage to try and get back his tail, which was shot off by one of the farmers who now wears it as a tie. But yeah, that’s it. It doesn’t sound like much, and it’s not. Not really.
Like I said, this movie, unlike the book, focuses more on the relationships between Mr. Fox and his family. In the movie we learn of his backstory with burgaling and his wife asking him to stop. He does until they move into the tree, and he just can’t help himself. Mr. Fox’s relationship with his son is also interesting. Ash is a typical kid living in his parent’s shadow who isn’t quite as good. He tries to get into his parents good graces and really wants to go with his father to steal chickens and whatnot, but he will have none of it because he believes his son will just slow him down. To add to Ash’s belief that he is unwanted is the sudden arrival of his cousin, Kristofferson, who is everything that he’s not. He’s athletic, he’s smart, he’s sly. His father apts to take him and not his own son, which adds to the strain.
Obviously this is all resolved by the end, and Mr. Fox learns that Ash isn’t just a wimpy loser, and Ash learns not to get upset at Kristofferson, and Mrs. Fox learns to appreciate everything her husband does for her, and Mr. Fox learns when to take it easy.
Alright, so let me get onto the parts of this movie that I think are actually really cool. The plot doesn’t do much for me and honestly the characters are “meh.” what I LOVE about this movie is the animation and the cinematography and stuff. This movie is just so unique. It is stop motion just like coraline, but it was shot at a lower frame rate, so things seem “jumpy.” It’s a bit annoying at first, but you get used to it and actually I find it really awesome now. The design of the puppets they used is also very cool. You can see every hair on their bodies and see it move as they do. Again, it’s unique.
We also get a lot of scenes that are set up like diaramas. In other words, it’s like a side cut out, almost like an ant farm. This makes sense because a lot of this movie takes place under the ground, but it’s an interesting way to depict it and the way it’s done is just really cool. You can see all the characters in different places and you can see the three farms with everyone below it. I don’t know why I find this cool, but I do.
One last thing about the artsy part of this movie that I adore are the colors that are used. I’m not going to lie, I very rarely pick up on any type of color stuff a director did on purpose to portray something interesting, like a message or an emotion. Typically, I figure this stuff out by looking through facts on the movie and then going “oh… yeah I guess that does make sense!” This movie, however, I picked up on right away. The entire movie is fall colors: reds, browns, oranges and yellows. It gives off a very warm feel and a very natural feel. Then, you have Kristofferson. He’s always dressed in blue! He’s so different than anyone else in the movie I feel like this had to have been done on purpose. He’s not from that area of the forest; he’s visiting. Ash resents him, so he’s always sort of like an outsider. So they put him in a different color. He sticks out like a sore thumb in the movie because he’s supposed to. I think that’s cool.
Most of my issues with this movie come from my issues with almost every Wes Anderson movie. The plot drags – it feels like anything takes FOREVER – including the delivery of lines. The humor is extremely dry. If you weren’t paying really close attention, you’d miss half of the jokes. This is a bit of a shame because these jokes are, for the most part, extremely funny. Unlike some of his other movies, these characters don’t really have much to them. Other than our family of foxes, we see a few other side characters, but there’s no build up of character. They’re just…. There.
And again… this movie moves so. Freaking. Slowly.
I don’t know if there’s much more to say about this movie. It’s ok. It’d be fine for kids, but they’d probably think it was boring except for the few scenes where the farmers are blowing up the tree. They won’t get the jokes. Is it worth a watch? Eh. Maybe once. I don’t know if you really need to see this movie multiple times, unless you are a Wes Anderson fan. Then you’d probably love this movie. I’m glad I saw it to say I saw it, but it might be one that’s in the stack to sell the next time we go to Half-Price Books. Decide for yourself.
I give Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) a 2.5 out of 5
Next up: The Iron Giant (1999)